HC Deb 11 January 1993 vol 216 cc590-1
2. Mr. Robert Banks

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many road schemes will be able to start as a result of the support he is giving to local authorities by means of the transport supplementary grant.

The Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. John MacGregor)

As I explained in my statement to the House on 15 December 1992, 41 new major schemes due to start in 1993–94 were accepted for transport supplementary grant. These schemes are listed in the Official Report.

Mr. Banks

I am grateful for that encouraging reply, which will do much for the country's infrastructure and for providing jobs. Is my right hon. Friend aware, however, that my constituents in the village of Spofforth, which lies south of Harrogate on the main link road between the A1 and Harrogate, suffer from increasing volumes of traffic and share my considerable annoyance that the bypass, due to start in September this year, was delayed by North Yorkshire county council until January 1994? It is to be delayed again into the 1994–95 financial year. Will the Minister be kind enough to look into this personally to see whether the start date can be brought back to January 1994?

Mr. MacGregor

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his opening comments. He is right that this is a major capital investment in the country's roads. It will be £1,047 million in the coming year, which is a record, in a difficult year. However, despite a good number of new schemes, as my hon. Friend knows there are always many more candidates than can be entertained. The problem about the Spofforth bypass scheme was that it was a doubtful starter in 1993–94. As my hon. Friend said, the forecast starting date was put back to January 1994, but in our experience forecast start dates are often optimistic and I am afraid that there were better candidates. I cannot accept any more schemes for this year, but I shall bear in mind what my hon. Friend said about next year.

Ms. Walley

Does not the right hon. Gentleman understand that there is a major problem about the way in which his Department is determining priorities? Is not it the case that the amount that local authorities can spend on local schemes rather than major schemes—on the sort of projects that local people want for environmental traffic calming measures—has been reduced from 7 to 5.7 per cent? When will he give local councils the real right to determine the priorities that they know are needed in their communities?

Mr. MacGregor

The hon. Lady is wrong. By and large, we follow the priorities advanced by local authorities for major schemes. As she will know, we have also increased substantially the amount available for local safety schemes, which often include traffic-calming measures, for this year and next year. The figures are up from £31 million to £50 million. I know that local authorities approve of those schemes; we are responding positively to their priorities.